PUTTING CHANGE MANAGEMENT AT THE HEART, AND START, OF HR PROJECTS

By Kate Mathias ,Global Head of Resourcing ,Standard Chartered Bank

The new tech adoption report from UNLEASH, ‘Why HR Projects Fail’ makes for interesting reading.  Research conducted for the report found that 85% of the business leaders surveyed were not fully satisfied that their programmes achieved their intended goals.

If this is concerning to you there is good news.  The report goes on to provide HR professionals with some guidance the report goes on to reveal 8 Golden Rules for successful HR Tech projects.  One of these rules is:

‘Change Management Matters: As organisations move into a phase of nearly constant change, it is more important than ever to prepare employees for and support them through technological upheaval and organisational transformation.’

Having spent much of my time at Standard Chartered Bank as head of HR Change, Portfolio and Transformation this is an area close to my heart.  I passionately believe that change management should be at the heart, and the start, of a successful project.  

I am often asked when change management should be introduced to a project.  I actually believe that change management is the project.  A successful project is about more than the technology you are introducing, more than the process change you want to bring about.  The adoption of the project through successful change management is what is going to get you your results.  

Here at Standard Chartered Bank, adoption of change is something we consider at the very start of projects.  We onboard our regional teams much earlier than is traditionally done.  This means they can help land change from the outset.  We involve them in project design, testing, planning the roll-out, every aspect of the project.  This ensures that the people we are asking to do things differently have been listened to throughout.  It means the user experience will reflect the actual end user, greatly increasing the chances of adoption and success at launch and beyond.

We also structure our funding to allow us to keep the adoption process going for much longer too.  We know the go-live is when the hard work starts, not finishes.  This is when we need to investigate whether people are using the technology the way we thought they would and whether it is bringing about the change we hoped for, and if they aren’t, why aren’t they?  People often look for an end point to a project, almost with the view that it will be finished, and a line drawn under it.  In fact, being more incremental and continuing to work with people to review projects after go-live dates allows us to deliver greater success.  Tech on its own doesn’t drive transformation but change in behaviour does. 

Timings and tools are crucial too.  Being able to deliver support in the moment, with the right tools, is key.  People don’t want to watch a webinar about something three months before it is introduced – they will be less engaged and forget the details.  We need to provide the right support at the time the individual is experiencing their version of the change you are introducing if you want them to do something different.

It’s important to remember HR projects often deal with emotive subjects too.  We deal with people and cover things like pay, performance, career progression, development opportunities, promotions and even leave.  Those leading HR projects need to recognise that the change curve you will take people through might get into people’s feeling and personal matters and account for this when planning change management.

 The pace of change is fast, this year in particular and this should be factored in to.  The current situation means that thinking about people and their situations and how they will experience things, is arguably more important than ever.  Situations are unique and, for global business, very different in different parts of the world with some countries slowly coming out of lockdown, others still in it and some only just starting to face the challenges it presents.  These situations must be considered, and decisions taken accordingly.  

 There are positives organisations can take out of the pandemic experience.  The speed with which change has come about, and the fact that this change and these new ways of working are working, for example.  Prejudices have been thrown out of the window, productivity is good and beliefs about what’s possible and the roles people can play in making change happen have been turned on their head.  Despite the gravity of the situation the pace of change is fast, the learnings are really impressive and confidence building.  

 If change management isn’t given its rightful place at the heart of transformation, then HR projects can and will go wrong.  Money will be wasted, new technology 

won’t be adopted and investment returns will be non-existent.  The emotional impact of projects that don’t succeed can be damaging on a deeper level too.  In short HR projects will continue to fail and business leaders will continue to be disillusioned  

 To summarise, I agree wholeheartedly with the Golden Rule in the UNLEASH report that ‘Change Management Matters’.  Change management is the project, it is integral to the whole programme.  If you want to succeed start early, make sure you have the tools you need, think about the end user when you design the experience and make sure your funding is designed to allow you to maintain momentum well  beyond your go live date.

 Download your copy of the UNLEASH report ‘Why HR Projects Fail’ containing the 8 Golden Rules from Thursday 28th May.